Masterpiece Stories

Christ In The Storm On The Sea Of Galilee, By Rembrandt

Rute Ferreira 15 July 2018 min Read

You may have noticed that here at DailyArt we are in love with Rembrandt. It is difficult not to be enchanted by the technique and ability of this Dutch artist to portray scenes of all kinds. Rembrandt is a great master, and personally he is one of my favorite artists. So join me in wishing the painter today a  Happy Birthday!

The work I present today in the Painting of the Week cycle is simply magnificent. Rembrandt has only amazing paintings  so choosing a single one is difficult, but I thought I would show the one that impresses me the most: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee is an intensely dramatic painting, full of meaning and special beauty.

But before we move onto the painting itself, a little note about the painter: Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn was born in Leyden, The Netherlands, on July 15, 1606 as a single child.

He enrolled in painting schools but his learning was consolidated in the atelier of the painter Jacob Isaaksz, who taught him how to draw and how to prepare paints (yes, in the time of Rembrandt, the painters made their own paints).

Still young, in 1627, Rembrandt opened his own studio and due to the quality of his work, commissions began to arrive. After the death of his father and the subsequent move to Amsterdam, things got even better: in about a year he became the most expensive and sought-after painter in the region. Despite this success, his life was not so good. His love story is very sad and as they say, not all is sunshine and roses…

Well, let’s get back to today’s painting: Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee is just one of the many biblical scenes produced by Rembrandt. The painting shows the passage narrated in the Bible in which disciples are terrified in the face of a storm, which Jesus Christ calms down – and then he teaches the disciples the importance of faith. But look at the painting closely: would not you be desperate too?

The Storm on the Sea of Galilee by Rembrandt
Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn, Christ in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

What Rembrandt portrays is precisely the moment of  fear and terror of the disciples before the force of nature, in contrast with the tranquility of Christ. One of the masters of creating brilliant effects in the play between light and dark, Rembrandt draws our attention to the left side of the painting, from where the great waves come and the disciples flock to save the small boat. In the struggle, nature seems to be winning.

While five of the men stick to the sail of the boat, the others run to Jesus, distinguished from the others by a subtle halo. What it seems, if we did not know the story, is that everyone is going to drown.

Rembrandt Harmens van Rijn, Christ in The Storm on the Sea of Galilee, 1633, detail, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum

Dated from 1633, the work does not portray only a situation of anguish: it is the anguish itself. Unfortunately, the turbulent and shocking picture was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. The painting had already belonged to several collectors when it was acquired by Isabela in 1898.

Two thieves disguised themselves as policemen and arrived at the museum saying they were going to attend an emergency call. When they entered the premises, they stole the equivalent of five hundred million dollars. In addition to this work, they stole Vermeer‘s paintings.

Then the museum offered a reward to anyone who gave information that would lead to the whereabouts of the artworks. Unfortunately, they are still missing. The museum still has hope, though. In the place where the painting used to hang, its frame remains empty, waiting for its heart to return home.

Find out more:

Did you know that recently a lost painting of Rembrandt was rediscovered? You can read about it here.

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